Starting a printing business takes a combination of practical print experience, sales and marketing skills and strong management capability. You will have to invest in equipment to produce the type of work you are targeting, which could range from business cards and stationery to full-color brochures or catalogs. If your clients want you to design their print jobs, you will need graphics software or a partnership with a designer.
Develop Printing Skills and Knowledge
Whether you are operating print equipment yourself or hiring staff, you must understand print technology and terminology. Your clients will expect you to understand their requirements, give them professional advice and deliver the quality results they expect. Unless you have previous experience in the industry, take a full-time or part-time job with a printer to develop basic skills. You can supplement or update your experience by taking courses in print technologies at college or online from organizations like Printing Industries of America.
You can operate a print business from home or a business park or retail site. A home business is suitable if you plan to run your business over the Internet, taking client orders online. If you want to attract walk-in business, a site in a retail area will enable you to attract customers or local retailers who have simple print requirements. Setting up in a business park gives your company a professional appearance and gives you the opportunity to choose the right size of premises for your short- and medium-term goals.
Identify Target Markets
Before investing in equipment, select the markets you want to reach. Printing is a very competitive business, and it may be better to specialize in a niche market. You may want to deal with consumers, rather than businesses, offering personal stationery and invitations. You can offer local retailers' price lists, promotional fliers, menus, newsletters and business stationery. If you deal with businesses, you may be printing marketing brochures, data sheets, direct mail pieces, technical handbooks, instruction manuals and annual reports. Market studies such as Printing in the US, published by IBISWorld in June 2014, can help you identify growth markets.
Select Equipment and Suppliers
Buy or lease equipment suitable for the type of work you want to handle. A high-quality color laser printer or copier is suitable for simple work such as stationery, invitations, fliers and newsletters. Some multi-function printers incorporate facilities for folding and stitching publications. If you are planning higher-volume printing of brochures and publications, invest in offset-litho equipment. You will also need a guillotine and finishing equipment for folding, stitching and varnishing. Contact companies that supply essentials such as ink, paper and board. If you do not have the skills or equipment to carry out design or pre-production work, contact specialists such as graphic designers and prepress firms.
Promote your Business
Contact prospects directly by mail, phone or email, asking for an appointment to present samples of your work and discuss requirements. Some companies may prefer you to deal with their marketing agencies or design firms. Set up a website that describes your services, print facilities and shows examples of your work. Place ads in local business directories under the print services category.